But there is also something else happening. A growing number of Americans (nearly a third, according to one Gallop poll) describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” Books with titles like “Christianity After Religion,” “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time,” and “The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus” are gathering a growing audience. And the Emerging Church movement, seeking to live, as Harvey Cox puts it, “in a new Age of Faith rather than the old Age of Belief,” is inspiring many young people (and not a few of us old folks!) with fresh winds of the Spirit. It feels like once again, as in the old Buffy Ste. Marie song, “God is alive, magic is afoot.” And more and more people want to be a part of it.
It is nice to see that my two favorite flavors of following Jesus blend together with the quote above. Quakers are more about making sure people see the light within them than they are about increased membership. The Emergent movement has a similar view. It is all about “being” a follower of Jesus than it is about spouting certain beliefs or creeds. I must say that I am more inclined daily to include myself in the “spiritual but not religious” category. It is more about lifestyle than it is about believing the “right” things.
For the most part mainline churches today are about what you are supposed to believe instead of how you are supposed to live. Each has their own creeds that you must sign into in order to belong with them. If you cross that creed/belief line you are in jeopardy of losing your membership. Many people particularly the young just don’t align with that approach to spirituality. Instead of what to believe they want to know how they can help. Instead of getting a free ticket to heaven they want to know how to pay their debt to society.
Older generations, such as my own, have been very comfortable being told what to do. In that regard I want to bring in yet another post from a Quaker friend:
Then there are those who want an authority to tell them what to do, think, feel. That authority could be a priest, it could be a dogma, it could be a ritual, it could be a tradition. Whatever it is, it provides a kind of security that a whole lot of people find sorely lacking in their lives. If they can find it in religion, they grab it and don’t let go. Security is the second of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I have no argument with those who find it in this way. My heart goes out to them. I’m genuinely glad for them….
As in the previous post here, doing the “other gospel” of being rather than believing is just too hard for many. The something-for-nothing emphasis doesn’t require the day-to-day energy of the “being” version.
I find it amazing that so many young people today have already discovered what it took me year to find. They realize that to earn their place in humanity requires effort on their part. They see the “being” of the Emergent church as a driving part of their lives. Get-out-of-jail free cards are just not enough for them.